Think filling your gas tank is pricey? Imagine the cost of refueling a commercial airliner. Last month, United Airlines and clean energy solution provider Rentech, Inc., took a giant leap toward narrowing the gap between problem and solution by completing the first flight by a U.S. commercial airline powered by natural gas synthetic jet fuel.
According to Rentech, “the validation flight was conducted using a 40/60 mix of Rentech’s synthetic jet fuel with conventional Jet A fuel in one of two engines on an Airbus 319 aircraft.” After departing Denver International Airport, the aircraft reached an altitude of 39,000 feet, at which time scientists gathered data while the aircraft performed a series of maneuvers such as climbing, cruising, taxiing, descent, and approach.
Late last year, United was one of 15 airliners to sign an agreement intended to establish a framework for supply agreements for certified synthetic jet fuel and jet fuel made from camelina oil, considered to be a next-generation biofuel feedstock. The airline’s senior VP of operations Joseph Kolshak considered the flight a success, and described it as “the next step in our effort to stimulate competition in the aviation fuel supply chain, promote energy security, environmental benefits, and the creation of green jobs.”
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